Number one, this book is beautifully designed. It is gorgeous. Noone can escape that. It doesn’t really cover much of what is on the inside but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Anyway, this book is beautiful inside and out, and I feel bad giving it a 3* review, but while the premise was amazing, and Jessie Burton can really tell a story, I just didn’t find myself as invested in this as I wanted to be.
There’s no denying it, this is an ambitious book. There were a lot of characters, and a plot that spanned decades. Odelle, our primary protagonist, was fantastic; Trinidadian born she and her friend have come to London to make a better life for themselves. She, a typist, eventually finds a job with a Miss Marjorie Quick at The Skelton Institute of art. At her friends wedding, Odelle meets a man who has a painting which needs an appraisal, so he finds her and that’s when we get the story behind the story. The story of the painting, which takes us back in time to Spain on the brink of the Civil War, and our protagonist there is Olive. The story alternates between Odelle’s experiences as an immigrant in London, trying to make her way in a world where her skin colour presents huge challenges and Olive’s story in Spain in, where most of the action takes place.
Don’t get me wrong, this book is masterful in parallels between our protagonists, Odelle and Olive. The writing is beautiful, the imagery is amazing and yeah, I loved so much of this story but, there were just too many unanswered questions and open ends for me, and I found that very unsatisfying. In parts it felt disjointed, and jumpy. I would have liked for it to maybe have slowed down in parts, and sped up in others. For me, the pace was all wrong but that’s a very personal thing. I’d liked to have known for certain what the deal was with Marjorie, and if she was who Odelle thought her to be.
All that being said, Jessie Burton in this book has proved herself to be an incredible writer. Her characters are well developed, her writing is elegant and flows beautifully, and her ability to capture human emotion is second to none. The only downfall for this, in my opinion, is the pacing and in some respects the plot. So yes, a happy 3*, bordering on 4 and I will definitely be picking up her next book!
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